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Colorado League of Women Voters records

Identifier: COU:974

Scope and Contents

The records (1929-1989) document the founding, membership, meetings, publications, reports, studies and activities of the Colorado State League of Women Voters. The emphasis of the collection is on topics of concern, rather than organizational files. The bulk of the material relates to the years 1960 –1980. More extensively-covered subjects include environmental issues, legislation pertaining to juveniles, taxation and financing government services, districting and reapportionment. The collection is organized into three categories, organizational files, subject files, and Metro: inter-league organization files. Within the first two of these sections, topics are organized alphabetically. The organizational files, from annual reports to publicity, comprise the first 15 boxes, and include numerous publications. Subject files, from civil service to voting rights, are contained in boxes 16 through 45. To a large extent, the donors’ original organizational scheme was preserved, thus issues pertaining to migrant workers are filed under human resources, and air quality is a sub-category of environment. The Metro: inter-league organization files are arranged in the order in which the ILO had originally filed them.


  • 1929 - 1989

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Historical Note

The idea to form the League of Women Voters was proposed at the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention by Carrie Chapman Catt on March 1919, in St. Louis. The League was officially formed in February of 1920, at the Victory Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Chicago. The League’s first project was to hold a National Citizenship School, to teach women about the election process. “The League was founded in 1920 to ‘finish the fight’ after women won the right to vote. Our aim from the start has been to ensure that citizens are informed about issues and prepared to play their part in community building and government.”[1]

Although non-partisan, the League promoted certain items of legislation, particularly those, which pertained to women’s equal participation in government and the improvement of living conditions for women and children. Among the first issues the League addressed were the regulation of child labor, and child welfare programs. The League championed independent citizenship for married women, women’s right to equal guardianship of children, and equal wages, as well as the inclusion of women on juries. They furthered nationally, uniform marriage and divorce laws, and citizenship instruction in the public school curricula.

Among the League’s early national legislative successes were: the Sheppard-Towner Act for the Promotion of the Welfare and Hygiene of Maternity and Infancy of 1922; the Cable Act for the Independent Citizenship of Women of 1922; the Civil Service Reclassification Act of 1933, that established equal compensation for equal work; provisions of the Social Security Act for unemployment compensation and for maternal and child health; the Child Labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938; and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Additionally, the League was an early advocate for international peace and a supporter of the establishment of the United Nations in the 1940’s.

The League also conducted studies of various topics, including low voter-turnout, juvenile delinquency, and efficiency in government. The League also published a variety of informational materials on national and local elections, known as the Voter’s Service. In Addition, the organization is well known for monitoring the fairness of the election process and for holding presidential and local candidate debates, issue forums, and community discussions.

In 1928, Mrs. Mabel Costigan (wife of Edward P. Costigan) was commissioned by the National League President Miss Belle Sherman to establish a Colorado branch of the League of Women Voters. Mrs. Costigan had been living in Washington D.C. and was the Chairman of the “Living Costs Committee” in the National League. With the assistance of Miss Geraldine Knight, Regional Organization Secretary, Mrs. Costigan selected an organization committee. Members included many of the elite women of Colorado society, whose family connections included US Senators, state governors, and prominent Denver area businessmen. The original organization committee included:

Mrs. Ben Cherrington, Mrs. Harry K. Runette, Miss Anna C. McClintock,[2] Mrs. Cora May Peabody Rogers (wife of James Grafton Rogers, daughter of Governor Peabody), Mrs. Rosamond Dennison McLean (wife of Hugh McLean, Esq., banker) Miss Georgia Nelson, Mrs. Amy Pitkin Stearns (wife of Robert Stearns, Esq., granddaughter of Governor Pitkin); Mrs. Sara Hyatt Taylor Arneill (wife of Prof. James Ray Arneill, MD) Mrs. Harriette F. Dunklee, Mrs. Platt Lawton Miss Josephine Roche (1st Denver policewoman, officer of the Juvenile Court, owner of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Co.)

The first meeting, held in Mrs. Costigan’s home, established a state board and plans for League branches to be organized in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver and Greeley. Mrs. Costigan was elected President of the state League; Mrs. Cherrington was elected Vice- President; Mrs. Runette, Secretary; Mrs. Stearns, Treasurer; Mrs. Arneill, Chairman of the Membership Committee; and Mrs. Kircher, Publication Chairman. The state branch of the League, as well as the local city and county branches, went under the name of the “Women Citizen’s League of Colorado,” since the name “League of Women Voters” was being used in Colorado by another women’s group unaffiliated with the National League of Women Voters. In 1929, when the Colorado League was officially incorporated, it had twenty-seven members, including twenty-one from Denver, three from Boulder, two from Colorado Springs and one from Greeley.

According to its Certificate of Incorporation, the functions of the League were: “To cooperate with the purposes, aims and policies of The National League of Women Voters, the principal headquarters of which are now located in Washington, District of Columbia; and, in so doing, to promote, both in the State of Colorado and nationally, education in citizenship; activity of women in public affairs; efficiency in government; needed legislation; and international cooperation to prevent war; and by other like means in other respects to advance the general welfare.”[3]

In 1929, the Colorado League began a “Study Group” on state government. They supported the “Maternity and Infancy Legislation,” the government operation of Muscle Shoals, and the “Lame Duck Amendment,” which shortened the time between election and inauguration. Local Leagues were established in Boulder and Greeley in 1931 and in Denver in 1932. In 1940, new incorporation papers were filed, changing the name to the “Colorado State League of Women Voters.”

For many years after the League of Women Voters of the United States was formed in 1920, the structure of government to which it related remained roughly the same--cities, counties, states, and the federal government. However, as population concentrated more and more in urban areas, the need for governmental services and for decisions concerning entire metropolitan areas began to force the emergence of regional agencies and governments. The League felt the need to be able to act on regional problems, and as a result inter-League organizations (ILO's) or councils were formed in areas where local League members wished to do program work involving problems or issues that were regional in scope. The League of Women Voters of Metro Denver began as an inter-League committee in 1960, when the local Leagues of Aurora, Boulder, Cherry Hills, Denver, Englewood, Littleton, Jefferson County, and Westminster signed an agreement to cooperate on various matters. However, by 1965 it became apparent that something more formal than this loose affiliation needed to be implemented if the Metro Denver inter-League committee was to be effective in serving League organizational needs and demonstrating a belief and willingness to practice metropolitan cooperation. In 1966 bylaws were adopted and the League of Women Voters of the Denver Metropolitan Area (LWV/DMA) was created. In 1974, the name of the League was changed to the League of Women Voters of Metro Denver (LWV/MD), and in that same year the organization was officially incorporated. Membership includes the Leagues of Adams County, Arapahoe County, Aurora, Boulder, Denver, and Jefferson County.[4]

Early subjects of League study and concern included children’s labor laws and juvenile delinquency, education, labor-management relations, and “human resources”--a topic including migrant workers, Native Americans, and “the needy aged.” In the 1940’s, the League pushed for jury service for women. In the 1960’s –1970’s the League addressed issues such as foreign aid and development, environmental issues, urban growth, government spending, Metropolitan governance of the Denver area, and the ERA.


[1] According to the February 1998 version of the League of Women Voters of Colorado website [2] Prior to the 1960’s it is difficult to find formal addresses for married women which include their first names, hence the customary form of address of the time was used in League records: “Mrs.” followed by the husband’s full name. When the women’s given names are listed here, they were found in Who’s Who in America, v. 7 & 15, (Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1912-13, 1928-29); Who’s Who for Denver and Colorado (Denver: Capitol Publishing Co., 1940-1941-1942). [3] See the League of Women Voters History on their webste and Wilma R. Davidson, A Force for Change: the League of Women Voters of Colorado, 1928-1995, (Denver: The League of Women Voters of Colorado, 1995), [4] Information regarding ILO's taken from "League of Women Voters of Metro Denver Board Handbook" 1978, page 1-3.


22.5 linear feet (49 Boxes)

Language of Materials



Records pertaining to the activities of the Colorado branch of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization promoting citizen awareness and participation in government. Organized by Mrs. Mabel Cory Costigan in 1928 at the direction of the National League of Women Voters, the Colorado League, with 27 board members originally called itself the “Women Citizen’s League of Colorado,” and coordinated local leagues in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Greeley. The collection contains organizational records including meeting minutes, council and conference agendas, membership information, bylaws, and publications, as well as material on specific issues of concern. The Colorado League conducted studies of, and supported legislation concerning, children’s labor laws, civil service, education, a variety of environmental issues, equal rights for women, the financial structure of state government, housing and urban growth, transportation, and national concerns such as electoral college reform and foreign policy.


This collection is arranged in the following series: Series 1: Organization Files, 1929-1986 Series 2: Subject File, 1939-1987 Series 3: Metro:Inter-League Organization, 1964-1989


This collection is arranged into the following series: ORGANIZATION FILES SUBJECT FILE METRO: INTER-LEAGUE ORGANIZATION

Processed by Lizka Segal, June 1998; Joel Tyberg, November 1998 Edited by Winglam Kwan, December 15, 2003
December 2003
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States